Child Of The Night - Chapter 16

Aeryn walked into Command, stopped two motras inside the door, and looked around.  Chiana was sitting at the
strategy table, ostensibly standing watch despite the fact that they were passing through a fairly empty region
of space.  Watching over their progress under those circumstances required little more than the ability to stay
awake through several arns of unrelenting tedium.  

“What’s up, Aeryn?” she asked.  

“I’m looking for John.  He wanted to learn more about the transport pod today.  Has he been up here?”  

“Not for about four arns.  He stopped in to ask me what tier the Den was on, and then he left.”  She got up and
started for the door, following Aeryn.  “Do you want me to help look?”  

“Not yet.  Pilot?” Aeryn called over her comms.  “Is Crichton with you?”  

“No, Officer Sun.  He has not visited the Den today.”  

“Oh, frell,” Chiana said.  “He’s gotten lost again.”  

“What about the DRDs, Pilot?  Do any of them know where he is right now?”  Aeryn and Chiana waited
patiently, knowing that unless Pilot was actively tracking Crichton, it would take him a microt or two of
multitasking to check the input from all of Moya’s DRDs.  

“He is on Tier Seven, two junctions aft of the ion backwash chamber, and one corridor to treblin side.  There
are two DRDs there at this time.  They will monitor him until you arrive.”  

Approaching the location designated by Pilot, Aeryn could see John lying face down near the edge of the
corridor, sound asleep on the hard floor.  For perhaps the hundredth time, she was reminded of Daaren’s look
of quiet amusement when he warned them of this sort of thing, and wished there was some way the delvian
could learn how true his predictions had been.  

Two DRDs were examining John, circling around and peering at him with their flexible eyestalks.  One unit
extended a maintenance claw and nudged the sleeper.  The two midget robots backed off, chirped to each
other several times -- perhaps discussing the strange place this being had chosen to go to sleep -- then moved
in a second time and bumped against him more vigorously.  There was no response.  

Aeryn crossed the last two motras and knelt down beside the small group.  The DRDs winked at her and then
scooted away, apparently satisfied that someone was attending to the malfunctioning human.  

“John, wake up.”  He did not stir.  “John, come on, there are better places for you to sleep.”  Aeryn straddled
him, grabbed him under the arms and pulled him up.  “Let’s go, you’ll sleep better in your own quarters.  A little
frelling help here, please.”  

He came slowly to his knees, not saying anything, and staggered to his feet as she continued to exhort him to
wake up.  She looped one arm over her shoulders and guided him back through the corridors to his chamber.  
He did not reply to anything she said during the journey, and when she pushed him toward his bunk he crawled
on to it and was immediately asleep again.  Aeryn tugged the cover out from under him and floated it over his
body.  She sat next to him and watched him sleep for a while.  

“Come back, John,” she pleaded, not caring if her voice woke him.  For once, she was the one who was tired
and scared.  She was tired of waiting for the John Crichton she knew to put in an appearance, and she was
scared that he might never recover completely.  This would be enough, if that was all she could have, but she
wanted all of him back, for his sake as well as hers.  He had willingly given up his health and sanity to keep her
safe.  It was only fair that he should be able to reclaim his life.  In addition, she wanted a full and equal partner
accompanying her through the cycles, not a half-recovered, sometimes childlike person who would always be at
risk of being killed, captured, or injured.  It was selfish, and when the worry kept her awake at night, it was also
the one overriding concern that she could never banish entirely from her thoughts.  

She wanted John Crichton back, and even after allowing for the warnings and lectures by Meylan and the other
delvians, it was beginning to feel as if it was taking too long.  

“Aeryn?” he called.  It was one of his quiet, sleep-generated inquiries.  

“Right here,” she answered, as always.  “Get some more sleep.”  

“I’m scared.”  He rubbed his eye and then lay still again.  

“So am I, John.”  Aeryn slid under the covers and curled herself around his back, tucking her chin in against his
shoulder.  “We can be scared together.”  

                                                                              * * * * *

He was lost again.  The corridors all looked so much alike, and the junctions never seemed to make any
sense.  He knew he could comm Pilot for help, but since he did not know where he was, they would have to
send a DRD or one of the others to find him first.  Crichton wandered farther along, hoping to spot some
chamber that looked familiar.  The corridor was lined with the cells and the regularly spaced maintenance areas
common to every other tier aboard Moya; there was nothing to distinguish this spot from dozens of others just
like it.  He kicked at a closed cell door, deriving a small measure of satisfaction out of the bashing rattle of the
heavy grate, then looked around him again trying to get his bearings.  

On top of everything else he was tired, which meant his body was probably going to shut down on him soon,
very likely before he got himself un-lost.  Frustration began to take over -- not the first time that had happened
since his friends had brought him back to Moya -- and for once he remembered just enough of what the
delvians had warned him about to know what was happening.  Knowing didn’t make it any better.  He was still
lost and about to pass out.  

“God DAMN it!!”  He could not even get from his quarters to the hangar bay to meet Aeryn.  It was the third time
he had gotten lost trying to travel this route.  Or it was the third time that he remembered getting lost.  There
was no telling how many similar incidents he had forgotten.  

The anger was rising to the surface, fighting to take control.  It was trying to provoke him into another of his
increasingly frequent psychotic outbursts.  “No,” he told himself.  Clamping down on the anger did not make him
feel any more in control of his life, but it did leave him feeling more like an adult for the moment.  

There was a whine from an adjacent corridor and a DRD whipped around the corner.  It came to a stop the
moment it spotted him.  It had its laser tool unshipped, which meant that it was likely headed for a repair, but it
paused in its duties and moved forward to sit by his foot, eyestalks staring up at him.  It was the unit that had
blue tape on one of its eyestalks, the one that had seemed to be a leader when they had taken on the bounty
hunters together.  It even had a name, but that bit of information had been sucked into the void in the middle of
his head along with so much else.  

“Hi, little guy.  Here to help me again?”  He crouched down and tapped the top of its casing.  

The DRD blinked twice.  No.  

“Thanks a bunch.”  

He was about to ask the DRD to lead him back to Quarters when he was swamped under an immense wave of
exhaustion.  One moment the solution to his dilemma was sitting by his feet; the next moment he was so tired he
could not think.  John sat down on the floor and stared at the waiting unit.  It was coming.  He could feel it.  He
was almost too tired to breathe and that was the last signal his body ever gave him before he blacked out.  

He stretched out on the floor, cradled his head on his arms, and peered sideways at the waiting drone.  “Tell
Pilot, would you?”  And then he fell asleep.

They were coming for him.  He could hear the heavy steps in the corridor.  He lay naked on the filthy floor and
rubbed away the tears so they wouldn’t see his fright.  His nervous system was singing to him without respite.  
There was no relief from the itching discomfort that the machine left behind.  It began the microt that he was
released from the screaming agony of the energy stream and continued arn after endless arn until the next
time they wired him up and pushed the button.  Whenever the pain faded, the grating feeling was there, waiting
to make every breath a misery.  It was a cross between a sunburn, poison ivy, and the aches of the flu, a
horrible sensitivity to every small touch that left him sick and shaking.  

The door crashed open and the hands began grabbing at him, pulling him up to take him back to the room with
the table.  He screamed out his anger, using the fear and rage to find enough strength to fight back.  He
managed to break loose and rolled away, only to come up against the wall with a crash.  

“CRICHTON!  John, calm down …”  

They were grabbing at his wrists, which meant a bruising fling down the hallway ending in a smash against the
ceramic walls, leaving him too stunned to resist.  He rolled away, lashing out without caring what their claws did
to him.  They had sewn him up before, they could do it again.

“John, you’re on Moya.  WAKE UP!”

“D’Argo?”  He woke to discover that he was already on his feet, jammed into the crevice between one of Moya’s
support ribs and an inner bulkhead, slapping at the hands that were trying to help him break free of his
nightmare.  “D’Argo?”  He slid to the floor gasping for breath and spent several microts watching the drips of
sweat form a small puddle between his feet.  “Sorry … I’m sorry, man.”  The luxan reached for him again and
John’s hands jittered crazily, caught between the dream instinct to slap the grasping hands away and the
waking knowledge that his friend was only trying to help him.  “Didn’t mean to hit,” he added in the way of an
apology.    

D’Argo moved away, powerless to help Crichton battle free of the last of his nightmare.  “Come on, John.  I’ll
take you back to your quarters so you can get some more rest.  Can you stand up?”  

Crichton shook his head and after a few more microts stretched out a hand, finally able to accept the offered
assistance.  D’Argo grabbed him firmly and hung on tight as John started to panic again.  He pulled Crichton to
his feet, moving quickly to scoop him up as the human’s knees buckled.  

“D’Argo, I --”

“You hate being carried this way, I know.  Shut up and go back to sleep, John.”  

John tried to hang on to D’Argo’s shoulder in an attempt to make it easier for his friend to carry him, but the
fatigue was back worse than ever.  He had been about to thank D’Argo for rescuing him from his nightmare
when breathing once again became an insurmountable obstacle, and he felt himself sliding away from the
steady rhythm of D’Argo’s stride.  The cold and pain of his dream clung to him like a second skin, only partially
offset by the warmth and security of D’Argo’s embrace.  He let himself get pulled in for once, willingly resting his
head on the heavily muscled shoulder and telling himself that this was an exception.  He would never do it again
… until the next time.

“You’re safe, John,” D’Argo said.  

“I know.”  He knew it, and yet he did not.  He was safely aboard Moya, and yet a portion of his psyche insisted
that the unbearable agony could begin again at any moment.  He could not stand going through anything like
that again.  Death would be a far more pleasant alternative.  Never again, he swore to himself in the privacy of
his own mind.  Not even for Aeryn.  

“Bad dream?” D’Argo asked.  His tone was gentle, leaving John the option of denying it.  

“I … I don’t remember it.”  He tried to laugh.  It came out a sob instead.  “Must have been pretty awful since I
was trying to clobber you.”  

“It’s all right.”  D’Argo maneuvered him through a doorway and pounded down a steep ramp to the next lower
tier.

“All I remember is that whatever I was dreaming about hurt like hell.”  

“That’s not surprising.  Go back to sleep, John.”  

D’Argo’s voice rumbled through his bones, the same way … someone else’s … someone he had known when
he was … somewhere else, sometime when he was younger.  He could not remember whose voice had rumbled
like that when he was being carried.  John turned awkwardly inside D’Argo’s powerful grasp, wrapped his arms
around his friend’s neck and shoulders and held on tightly.  

“You’re all right.  You’re safe now, John,” the deep voice crooned to him.   

Tears stung, brimmed over, and broke loose before he could stop them.  He tried to wipe them away before
D’Argo noticed and thought him weak, but his body was already asleep.  He knew when he was settled on his
own bunk, and could not even manage to rouse himself enough to thank his friend.  A moist cloth cleaned his
tears away, a rough hand passed lightly through his hair, and then he was alone.  

The pulses and rumbles of Moya worked their way into his skull and carried him the rest of the way into sleep,
for the moment erasing the hideous memories.  

                                                                              * * * * *

D’Argo could hear yelling and the ringing tones of smashing metal while he was still twenty motras from the
hangar bay.  Three DRDs scurried out of the huge chamber, fleeing into the corridors.  Aeryn’s frantic
summons had caught him in the middle of changing into his sleepwear; he pulled the loose black top around
him more tightly and fastened the waist as he ran around the corner.  His first sight was that of Crichton winding
up for a throw, a huge piece of scrap metal in his hand.  The raging human flung it furiously into the midst of a
chaotic mess in one corner, smashing a crystalline scanning lens into microscopic shards.  

“What the frell is going on?” D’Argo bellowed, ducking flying shrapnel.  

“Get down!” Aeryn yelled at him.  

The warning came just in time.  John grabbed a piece of wood and flung it at the new intruder.  D’Argo dove for
cover, searching for the source of Aeryn’s voice at the same time that he squirmed behind one of the massive
upright pillars.  He spotted her huddled behind a cargo container, her pulse pistol drawn but pointed uselessly
at the floor.  

“What happened?” he called to her over the din.  

“He wanted me to show him more about the module.  There were parts marked in English.  I couldn’t read them
and he couldn’t remember even one word.  He got frustrated and then this started.”  She flinched, ducking
down further as another lens shattered.  

Crichton began yelling incoherently, venting his emotions in a stream of untranslatable syllables.  

“Aeryn, you commed me almost a quarter arn ago.  This has been going on since then?”  

She nodded, looking worried.  

“How much sleep has he gotten today?”  

“Hardly any.  I think that’s part of what set it off.  The only good news is that he hasn’t found a weapon yet.”  

A DRD ventured into the hangar bay, surveyed the scene and retreated in reverse, apparently unwilling to
waste the time to turn around.  It bumped into the edge of the door, spun around and zipped out of sight.  A
lump of twisted metal followed it into the corridor, flung with frightening accuracy and force.  An unarticulated
bellow of frustration rang through the chamber, followed by another loud crash.    

“He can’t continue this much longer,” D’Argo said.  “John will run out of energy and collapse.”  

“Before or after he hurts himself?” Aeryn said.  A chunk of metal smashed into the side of the container above
her head.  “Or someone else.”

“He cannot keep this up.”  Another ringing impact from the other side of the maintenance bay seemed to
contradict his statement.  “I’ll have to tongue him.”  

“Let me distract him so you can get closer,” Aeryn called quietly.  Another chunk of debris, larger than the first
one, ricocheted off the container protecting her, suggesting that the raging human had overheard their
conversation.  A microt later a heavier impact sounded from another direction, followed by a bellow of pain.  

“Frell!”  Frustrated by her helplessness, Aeryn resorted to smashing the butt of her weapon against the
container protecting her.  She jammed the pistol into its holster and scrambled out from behind the barricade.  
D’Argo jumped to his feet, intending to warn her to be careful.  He was too late.  Aeryn was already darting
toward the source of John’s anger-laden yells of pain, all caution abandoned.

Crichton was down but far from rational.  From the items strewn around the hangar, D’Argo concluded that he
had managed to damage a container on the bottom of a stack, which had then collapsed under the weight of
the pile above it.  John was pinned beneath one of the undamaged units, still struggling, beating at the
imprisoning weight with both hands.  

“John!” Aeryn yelled at him, trying to get close enough to help him.  “Stop it.  Calm down and let us help.”  

She was answered by another string of untranslatable invective.  Crichton would not wait for assistance.  He
pushed against the nearest edge of the reinforced drum lying across his lower body and managed to rock it
part way off his legs.  Before he could get free, his hands slipped and it rolled back even further, generating
another rending cry of pain.  

“Crichton, for frell’s sake, stop struggling and wait for us to lift this off you.”  

John’s struggles became less frantic and the profanity tapered off.  Aeryn waved to D’Argo and together they
strained to lift the cask.  

“Get him out,” D’Argo hissed when the edge came up far enough to release John.  “I’ve got it.”  Aeryn hurried
around him and dragged John clear of the weight.  At her barked command, D’Argo released his grip and the
container smashed back to the floor.  

“I’m all right.  I can do this by myself,” John said, pulling out of her hands when she tried to help him to his feet.  
He limped several paces away, glaring around him at the mess.  “Leave me alone.”  

“You’re bleeding,” she said, following him.  

“I’m fine!” he bellowed, suddenly as angry as before.  “I can take care of myself for once!”  Another metal
fragment whanged off into the distance.  Aeryn took three quick steps away from him, recognizing the beginning
of another crazed rampage.  

“Stop this John,” D’Argo said, concentrating on sounding strict.  “You’re not behaving …”  

Crichton rushed him, striking out with far more strength than accuracy, and D’Argo shuffled back out of range.  
One wild punch landed on his shoulder, and he parried the next four or five blows with his forearms.  “Do not do
this, John.  Do not make me fight you.”  

He continued to move away.  It did not make a difference.  Crichton was fixated on the retreating luxan.  The
flurry of punches and counters moved gradually around the hangar bay, Crichton pursuing as D’Argo
continued to retreat.  

“Tongue him!” Aeryn yelled from a safe distance.  

“I’m trying!  I can’t get a clear shot.”

John moved in more aggressively and he resorted to hitting the human with both hands clenched together,
sending him flying to one side.  John staggered into a jumble of wreckage, tripped and disappeared for a microt
amidst the various rattling components.  D’Argo went after him in a rush, seeing the momentarily dazed form
lying with his neck exposed.  The long tongue lashed out, moving too fast to be seen, and John sighed once
and lay still.  

“Hezmana.  That was insane.”  

“That was not John,” Aeryn said beside him.  “He never acts like that, D’Argo.  What’s going on?”  

“Is it safe now?” Rygel’s voice broke in on their depressed reverie.  The throne sled drifted into the hangar,
tracing a wandering path that allowed the Dominar to survey the destruction beneath him.  “I always knew
Crichton was fahrbots but this is beyond his customary level of dementia.”  

D’Argo hissed at the hynerian, venting his aggravation.  

Aeryn did bother looking up.  She was crouched over John’s inert body, checking him for injuries.  “His legs are
going to be badly bruised.  That’s all though.  Nothing seems to be broken.  You did a good job not hurting him,
D’Argo.”  

“He did not make it easy.”  D’Argo began tossing debris aside, clearing a path to get to John.  “All this because
he couldn’t read some piece of information in his module?”  

Aeryn nodded.  

“This doesn’t make sense.  I have never seen John this upset about anything.”  He knelt next to the conscious
figure and began straightening his limbs in preparation for picking him up.

“I believe it makes complete sense,” Rygel drawled from his location above them.  The pair on the floor looked
up, waiting for more of an explanation.  “His life has been taken away from him, albeit temporarily.  His life was
taken away from him once already when he wound up here, now it’s been taken away from him again.  Before
this happened, he at least had his hideous excuse for a spacecraft, and his own language and his memories.  
Now he has nothing.  I would be equally upset if the only way I could regain my life was to be reminded of my
loss every waking moment.”  The monarch looked down at Crichton with something resembling sympathy, spun
his chair around, and left the chamber.  

“I hate it when Rygel is right,” D’Argo grumbled, gathering John into his arms.  Aeryn took some of the weight
initially, helped him stagger to his feet, and then settled John’s lolling head against his shoulder.  “His quarters
or Jool’s infirmary?  He usually wakes up in about half an arn,” D’Argo asked.    

“His quarters I think.  Let’s give him some place familiar to wake up.”  She followed D’Argo’s route through the
battlefield.  

Several sets of eyestalks peered around the edge of the doorway, checking to see if it was safe yet.  

“Sorry about the mess.”

                                                                              * * * * *

Aeryn strode into the maintenance bay they used for an exercise area and glared around her, examining the
punching dummy and padded targets she had set up for her training regimen.  A flurry of memories swirled
around her, reminiscent of the disjointed images she had shared with John during the Meetings:  punching her
hands into bleeding tatters when she had discovered it had been Moya’s first pilot that she had helped kill, until
John appeared to grab her and pull her away; lying shivering on the floor telling him she was dying, John
crouched over her with a look on his face that she had not understood; the endless arns of teaching him how to
fight, how to protect himself, none of which had helped when he needed it the most.  

“Bad idea,” she said to herself, kicked the dummy once and turned to leave.  

“What’s a bad idea?” Rygel demanded from just outside the doorway.  

She had not heard him coming, which meant that she had been more deeply mired in her thoughts than she
suspected.  “Mind your own business,” she snapped and hurried away from him.  

The Dominar watched Aeryn disappear, considering the inexplicable anger and how quickly it had followed the
events in the hangar.  Then he turned his throne sled and went in search of the rest of the crew.  He would
have to be very careful, he reflected.  His comments would have to appear careless and unpremeditated if he
were to hide his concern for Aeryn while pointing someone else in her direction.  

                                                                              * * * * *

D’Argo slowed from a rush to a meandering wander four motras before he reached the doorway to the hangar
bay.  He stopped, watching from the corridor as Aeryn moved around the cluttered maintenance bay, slowly
picking up the debris from Crichton’s earlier rampage.  She put several splicers back in their niches, then
gathered up a handful of scraps from the floor.  D’Argo watched with admiration as she lobbed one piece of
damaged circuitry after another accurately into a waste bin located on the far side of the bay.  He turned away,
relieved that Rygel’s griping had been unfounded.  

“Frell it all!” Aeryn screamed behind him, followed by the sharp crack of a piece of debris ricocheting off a wall.  
D’Argo spun around in time to see another piece of metal disappear into Moya’s hangar bay, thrown with more
force than John had been able to muster earlier in the day.  Tools, waste metal, and bits of damage equipment
followed.  

“Frell, frell, frell, frell,” she screamed as she heaved each blameless object into the dimly lit distance of Moya’s
internal cavern.  Several dozen chunks of waste disappeared into the gloom in time with a chorus of Sebacean
profanity before she came to a stop.  

“Aeryn.”  D’Argo’s single quiet word jerked a startled exclamation out of her.  She spun around, right hand
dropping to the butt of her pulse pistol.  “I’m sorry,” he said quickly, holding both hands up in a placating
gesture.  “Aeryn, what is bothering you?”  

Aeryn slapped the pistol back under the catch of the holster and turned away from him, shoulders squared and
rigid, back straight, head held high.  “Nothing.”  She hammered the short denial out through clenched teeth.  

“Aeryn,” D’Argo repeated her name gently as he moved to stand alongside her.  “Look.”  He pointed to a corner
where two sets of eyestalks were peering cautiously around the corner.  “Even the DRDs know that this is not
‘nothing’.”  

When her shoulders slumped and she dropped her head in resignation he allowed himself a small inward
smile.  The DRDs crept out from their hastily sought refuges all around the chamber.  The work gang of robots
resumed their task of cleaning up as much of the destruction as they could handle without assistance.  

“You do not have to confide in me, but I would be happy to listen if you want to talk about it,” he said carefully,
mindful of the recent spate of violence against inanimate objects.  “It might help.”

“I can’t do this anymore, D’Argo,” she said after several microts of silence.  “I don’t have the strength.”  

“You have the strength to do anything you want to do, Aeryn.  What is it that you think you cannot do?”  He
took her by the arm and steered her toward a workbench near John’s module.  

“Any of this.”  Aeryn pulled away and went to look into the cockpit of the module.  “He gets better but he gets
worse.  He remembers certain things, and then acts more erratic.  I try to be patient, but -- ”

D’Argo folded his arms and leaned a hip against the workbench, watching her.  Aeryn wandered around the
module, fingers trailing over its battered surfaces.  “But what?” he prompted when she did not continue.   

“Look at what happened today.  D’Argo, that was not John Crichton.  John has never acted like that before.  
Never.  Not even when the chip took over.  When that happened, he was murderous, not insane.”  Aeryn
leaned both elbows on the stubby wing and dropped her head into her hands, staring blindly.  

In a flash he understood the anguish she was keeping hidden inside.  His own question to the delvians
sometimes haunted him as the solar days passed and still his friend did not reemerge from the midst of the
compounded physiological damage.  

“Are we doing this just to keep some sort of wreckage alive?”

Crichton was far from the wreckage he had been concerned about that day, but he had spent countless arns
wondering if they would have to reconcile themselves to the fact that their friend would never be the same.  He
shared Aeryn’s nightmare of uncertainty.  Although the oft repeated solution of ‘time and patience’ had brought
them a long way, there was no way of knowing if it would be enough to complete John’s hard fought journey.  
D’Argo watched Aeryn’s shoulders rise and fall, watched her fight to contain her impending tears, and knew that
he could not voice his own fears.  As much as it would help him to say it out loud, it was not fair to heap that
added concern on top of her existing distress.  He gave voice to his hopes instead.   

“He is going to recover, Aeryn.  Look how far John has come.  You are strong enough to see this through, and
you do not have to do this alone.  Not one of us is going to give up until the John Crichton we all know and
would like to jettison out a pressure hatch is back among us, making up his horrible plans and driving us all
insane with his never ending Earth words.”  

She did not answer.  Aeryn’s deep, shaking breaths said that she was close to the rare crisis of tears.  

An idea began to take shape, one that would offer both of them some relief and reassurance that John might
return to his old self some day soon.  “Aeryn, will you wait here for half an arn?”

She looked up, her face pale and strained, glanced around the empty chamber, and nodded.  D’Argo hurried
out of the maintenance bay, somehow sure that the privacy would give her time to vent more of the pent-up
anxiety.  He turned into the corridor and almost ran over Chiana, who was hurrying in the opposite direction.  

“Chiana!” he said, steadying her as they veered to avoid the collision and both nearly fell over.  “What are you
doing here?”  

“I live here, remember?” she said aggressively.  “I can’t take a walk to the hangar bay if I feel like it?  Who died
and made you god?”

D’Argo recognized one of Crichton’s phrases, one of the many they had all picked up over the past cycles.  “My
demand came out wrong,” he said.  “You have every right to be here.”

“Yeah, so did mine.  I’m sorry.  Rygel was going on and on about Aeryn acting fahrbots, and I thought I’d see if
there was anything I could do to help since the little toad had not stuck around to find out what the problem
was.”  She leaned toward the open doorway, peering in toward where Aeryn remained alone.  “Have you talked
to her?”  

“A little.”  D’Argo caught her shoulder and pulled her away from the opening, hearing the first quiet noises of
Aeryn’s much-needed emotional release.  He knew that the ex-Peacekeeper would not want anyone to know
that she was crying.  “I have an idea how to take care of this, but I need you to stay here.  Just make sure
Aeryn remains in the maintenance bay as I asked her.”  He looked down at the flashing black eyes, noted the
energy bursting out of the slim body, and interpreted the signals being transmitted.  “Leave her alone, Chiana.  
She needs some time by herself.  Just make sure she doesn’t leave.”  He watched the body language, familiar
with the jerks, twitches, and spiky angles that would expose any deceit.  

“All right.  But what are you going to do?  What’s wrong?”  She hung onto his sleeve, trailing along as he moved
down the corridor, and started to smile as he told her what he was going to do.  

                                                                              * * * * *

“Aeryn?”  Crichton limped into the maintenance bay, looking around for her.  He swallowed hard against a tight
feeling in his chest, amazed at the level of destruction he had managed to achieve in such a brief length of
time.  He shunted the embarrassment off to one side, trying to remember everything D’Argo had told him to do,
and walked toward the enormous doors to the hangar bay.  “Aeryn?” he called again.  

“Over here,” she answered.  The low voice carried easily in the silence.  

Aeryn was sitting on one of the workbenches, looking out at the stars.  A memory concerning both her position
and the location teased at him.  He shoved it aside, trying to stay focused on the task at hand.  It was too easy
to get derailed, which usually resulted in forgetting every last detail of what he was supposed to be doing.  He
had to remember what D’Argo told him to do.

“What’s wrong, John?”   

“Nothing’s wrong.  I thought we could just sit together for a while.”  He wanted to apologize about what had
happened earlier.  But D’Argo had told him not to mention that bit of insanity, so he bit down on the impulse and
concentrated on D’Argo’s plan.  “Can we do that?”  

Aeryn gestured to the workbench next to her, inviting him up.  

John gnawed on his lower lip for a microt, strangely attracted to that particular spot facing the portal.  D’Argo
had told him to do something else though, something that would reassure Aeryn.  ‘Guilt’ had been a shockingly
familiar yet almost forgotten sensation when D’Argo had explained that he needed to do something for her for a
change.  She had been holding him together for so long, and he had somehow managed to overlook the fact
that she needed some support from time to time.  The requirement was clear in his mind now, easily
remembered now that someone else had told him what needed to be done.      

“Would it be all right if we sat somewhere else?” he asked.  “Over there?”  He pointed to a spot on the floor
near the wall, one where they would still be able to look out at the stars.  

Aeryn slid off the workbench and came willingly to join him, standing for the extra microts it took for him to
convince his body to fold up in order to sit on to the floor.  He wondered about that, curious why she was
waiting to sit down, but then she lowered herself into place so she was sitting in front of him, and he realized
that once again both Aeryn and D’Argo knew something about him that he could not recall.  He wrapped his
arms around her, feeling the long sigh of satisfaction as she leaned back into his embrace.  A memory of a
similar situation teased at him, frustrating him when it retreated without emerging.  He closed his eyes for a
microt and managed to beat the frustration into submission.

“Is this okay?” he asked into her ear.  “Would you be willing to sit like this for a while and do nothing except talk
if we feel like it?”    

“Yes.”  Aeryn leaned into him with more force.  “Yes, this is fine, John.”  She sighed deeply, letting her breath
out in a series of small exhalations, and worked her way closer to his body.  “Thank you,” she whispered,
pulling his arms around her more tightly.  

She was warm where their bodies met, both soft and firm at the same time, her hair sweet-smelling as he laid
his cheek against her head.  The errant memory came home, slamming into place with an impact that was
almost physical:  Sitting on the floor in Pilot’s Den with Aeryn in his arms, happy that they were together and
sad about something else.  The something else portion of the memory was buried deeper; it refused to be
teased loose.  

He did not care that a piece of the memory was missing.  He understood why D’Argo had told him to sit this
way.  It was part of his forgotten history with Aeryn.  He rested his cheek against her head.  “I’m glad you’re
here,” he said.  

“I’m glad you’re here, John Crichton.”   Aeryn intertwined her fingers into his and leaned down to kiss his
knuckles.  

Having her in his arms was a wonderful feeling.  D’Argo was right.  He would have to do this with Aeryn more
often.  Daily, if she would let him.


                                                                           * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
Chapter 15                                                                                                                                                                              Chapter 17
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